[Avodah] Are We Trying to Grow?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Mon Apr 26 15:06:28 PDT 2021

On Tue, Apr 20, 2021 at 05:59:14AM -0400, Akiva Miller via Avodah wrote:
> The point is that RMB is correct, but only in the vast majority of cases.
> 99.9% of the time, 99.9% of the people will carry on their lives unchanged
> from previously. But here and there, tiny improvements WILL occur. It is
> very important to avoid getting discouraged by the *apparent* lack of
> success.

I was not trying to say: The rabbi's sermon doesn't promote growth, so
why have them?

My thesis was about how to make a shul more growth oriented. (With my
Litvisher bias; most people who try these things end up exploring Chassidic
or O Neo-Chassidic modalities.) And here, I was trying to say: The typical
rabbi's sermon of today doesn't do much to promote growth, so let's figure
out how to improve them to make them more growth oriented.

In other words, how do we enlarge the percentage of people who do change,
and the pace and amount of change the person is likely to take on?

In contrast to the opening idea that we should omit sermmons because they
bore and they stretch out the service to little purpose, I am arguing we
should therefore make them more effective, increase that purpose.

> RMB closed his post with several concrete suggestions, all of which I
> endorse. The critical factor is to keep expectations low and slow, and not
> get depressed by any *apparent* lack of success.

I think we won't get the same kind of growth from people who aren't
defining their Judaism in terms fo growth. And that, to my mind, is a
shul's step one.

If the rabbi sees that people are coming late, and or talking in shul,
and or tallises are being folded up by Ein kEilokeinu (on Shabbos) or
right after taking off tefillin, during the Qaddish after UVa leTzion
(weekdays), he has two potential approaches:

What tends to happen is that he scolds the congregation. (I would say
"give them mussar", but I really don't want more negative associations
with the word Mussar. <grin>, cause I just did so anyway.)

However, the problem is that the minyan has a number of bored people
in it. So the rabbi *could* be working on how to get more of them more
interested in davening, and the others more interested in not ruining
the experience for those who are getting more into it.

Truth is, I have a lot of concrete ideas for improving the shul
experience. What I don't have is a shul willing to try them. Which
is a pity, because it would have been nice to be able to utilize the
inflection point in our relationship to shul that the Author of history
is currently giving us.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger                 Today is the 29th day, which is
http://www.aishdas.org/asp   4 weeks and 1 day in/toward the omer.
Author: Widen Your Tent      Chesed sheb'Hod: When is submitting to another
- https://amzn.to/2JRxnDF                     an act of kindness?

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